Before you buy, inspect the trees

Landscape repairs can be costly

When considering the purchase of a home don't forget to inspect the trees. Home buyers frequently overlook landscape "repairs" that can prove to be costly.

Trees probably receive the least consideration when purchasing a home. For many people large old trees are a major reason they were interested in the property in the first place.

However, large trees, frequently found in older neighborhoods, should be carefully checked for potential problems. Cracks running down the trunk of the tree or through major branches could mean the tree is structurally unsound and a potential hazard.

Mushrooms or fungi growing on the trunk or branches indicates decay which has possibly moved into less visible areas of the tree as well.

Consider the condition of the canopy. Have the tree branches ever been trimmed? If so, was it done correctly? To allow for proper healing of the pruning cut branches should be trimmed not quite flush with the trunk. Incorrect pruning cuts can lead to decay.

Do the tree limbs hang over powerlines? Tree limbs in poor condition can come down in a storm or strong wind and take the powerlines with it, causing outages and safety problems for you and your neighbors. Trimming limbs near electrical wires needs to be done by a tree professional certified to work near electrical power. If the tree limbs hang over the Xcel power poles, call Xcel Energy at (800) 895-1999 (an automated number) for more information.

While the condition and type of trees may not be a good enough reason to prevent you from buying your dream home, you do need to consider the cost of removing large trees and shrubs. A large tree with roots and branches extending into adjacent properties can easily cost $1,000 or more to take out. The damage the removal does to the turf and other landscape plants can also be an additional cost; make sure you discuss this with the contractor before any work is done.

Hiring a certified consulting arborist to inspect the trees may be a good investment for you, particularly if there are many large old trees on the property. As with any contractor, check the arborist's references and certification (The International Society of Arboriculture has a certification program), and make sure their insurance and license are current before you hire them for consulting, tree trimming or removals. You can call the City of Minneapolis Licensing Division at 673-2080, to find out if your contractor is licensed by the city.

For more information on trees and landscape care, visit the International Society of Arboriculture and the Minnesota Extension Service online at www.isa-arbor.com and www.extension.umn.edu.